In our busy, fast-paced and turbulent world, genuine communication is rare, and often we find ourselves grappling with how to handle difficult conversations with ease, clarity, and effectiveness. How many times have you found yourself choosing to avoid the conversation (even though it needs to take place), by simply opting not to raise the issue, or holding back on sharing your full perspective? How many times have you decided to candy-coat the message or ended up bludgeoning someone with the brutal truth to the point of harming the relationship and stifling creative problem solving?
Candor engages others in dialogue that shares a realistic picture of what is taking place without being brutally honest, which results in harming, hurting, or alienating others. Candor opens the pathway for people to move beyond their individual points of view, gain fresh insight, expose biases, and explore uncomfortable perspectives so that they see opportunities and not obstacles. Practicing candor in your personal and professional life enhances collaborative relationships, reduces conflict, and leads to better and more meaningful outcomes. Candor as a practice leads to increased value being created for all involved, resulting in increased life satisfaction and a competitive edge.
Adopting candor as a guiding principle requires you to take steps to ensure that you are sharing information, looking for differing perspectives, and behaving the way you want others to behave. Here are some ways that you can begin adopting candor as a guiding principle:
1. Tell the truth with oneself and then extend it to others
Don’t avoid the opportunity to be appropriately honest, raise difficult issues, or engage in challenging conversations with yourself and others. These moments hold the potential for learning and growth. Encourage those around you to do the same.
2. Create and encourage people to share information and encourage others to reach out to those who need to know and make decisions or act upon the information
Be clear that you value the free flow of information, and let others know that although not everyone needs to know everything, it is your and their responsibility to find the appropriate people and share with them what you think, know, or believe.
3. Make it clear to all that you welcome difficult conversations and hearing troubling information
Let others know that you don’t want information sugar coated or to only hear nonstop happy talk, but that you willingly seek out and want to hear information that does not conform to your viewpoint or perspective. Be open to giving and receiving feedback. Surround yourself with people who will value that as well.
Encourage open debate and feedback by creating an environment of openness and trust, and share and demonstrate candor with those around you.
4. Demonstrate respect for those who have the forthrightness to bring those issues forward, and praise them for doing so publicly
Be aware that it is never easy to have these types of difficult conversations with someone else. Reward people who challenge assumptions and highlight difficult truths. Encourage that behavior and see it as a sign of respect and concern for your well being.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
As valuable as candor can be, if you are not well-practiced in using it and having candid conversations, unintentional harm can be done. Practice will help you develop the focus and intention required to deliver negative messages constructively and without being hurtful.
6. Be Willing to Admit When You Make A Mistake
Wise people do this. Admitting your mistakes disarms critics and garners you respect. It also makes others more comfortable sharing and admitting their own errors
Candor is not something you can mandate from others, but it is certainly something you can develop in yourself and model for those around you. It may not come easily, but when you commit to practicing candor with yourself and others, you can become highly skilled at creating the dialogue needed to inspire new insights, and create the peace of mind needed to succeed in life and in your profession.